There was a while there where I was known for being a real asshole. Oh, not everybody thought that. But a good enough number of folks did that it worried me. And they would tell me this to my face. "Am I really an asshole, like all these jackasses have been saying?" I'd ask. My comrades would tilt their heads slightly and extend, palm up, a hand, to indicate to me just how fucking obvious it was. "That is shocking," I'd say, "just shocking."
I don't mind being considered an asshole, but I do mind being considered an asshole when I have no conception that I am behaving as one. I've always felt like I've had a pretty good prismatic view of the colors of my personality; if there's one thing I dislike about myself, it's that I feel painfully self-aware, second-guessing nearly every thought or emotion. Generally, I feel like I know when I'm being an asshole. So, having a reputation for being one was something I couldn't fathom.
The result of this revelation, coupled with self-doubt following breakup desiderata, was that I felt much like Hal Incandenza toward the end of Infinite Jest, when he loses total control of his facial expressions and, eventually, his abilities to communicate in any form. People look at Hal, who is seriously troubled by a friend's forehead predicament, and ask him what he thinks is so goddamn funny. Today at work, actually, I was unusually pissed off, yet several people, when passing by, asked why I was so goddamn giggly this morning. This only increased my frustration; I wanted to break a mop handle over the backs of the humorless.
Back when this started, though, the direct result of the asshole+desiderata emotional state was that many times when speaking seriously with someone (admittedly, due to drunkenness, those times were rare) I would spend twice as much time assuring them that what I was saying was sincere than I spent saying the sincere things. And the Chinese Handcuffs feeling of it all was that the more I assured them I was totally and completely unironic at the moment, the less assured I was that they believed me. It always reminded me of the time I told a fantastically true story to my aunt, prefacing it with the comment, "This story is absolutely fucking true," which prompted her to scoff and say, "Well, now I don't believe you." And she didn't.